Freshman guard Katie Benzan led Harvard with 13 points and seven assists against St. John's. (Gil Talbot)
QUEENS, N.Y. – A spirited fourth quarter rally at St. John's fell just short, as the Harvard women's basketball team (21-9), fell to the Red Storm (22-11), 62-57, at Carnesecca Arena in the second round of the WNIT.
Freshman guard Katie Benzan led Harvard with 13 points and seven assists, freshman forward Jeannie Boehm added 11 points, and sophomore guard Sydney Skinner had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Crimson.
"We have depth, we have inside game, we have outside game, but we have youth," said head caoch Kathy Delaney-Smith. "So some of the decision-making and some of the sustained level of confidence during the runs of a typical game - we've struggled with that."
With Harvard trailing 49-36 early in the fourth quarter, the Crimson comeback started with consecutive threes by Benzan and Skinner that made it a seven-point deficit at 49-42. Then with 5:22 to play, Nunley hit a layup off a nice spin-move in the paint to pull Harvard to within five points.
Minutes later, a three-pointer by Benzan cut the deficit to two points at 53-51 with 3:50 to play. Harvard had several chances to tie or take the lead in the final minutes, but could not score the go-ahead basket, and St. John's salted the game away with free throws in the final minute.
The Red Storm pushed ahead early on in the game, using a 9-0 run to take an 11-3 lead with 6:21 remaining in the first quarter. Junior Kirby Porter settled things down for Harvard with a corner three pointer. Later in the frame, Benzan found Raster for a corner jumper off an inbounds play to make it 15-8. The Crimson trailed 19-9 after one quarter of play.
Harvard shot 7-of-11 (63.6%) from the field in the second quarter and got back into the game after St. John's extended its lead to double digits midway through the frame.
Raster hit another baseline jumper off an inbound play to keep Harvard within nine at 22-13 with 6:38 to play in the second quarter. St. John's took its largest lead of the first half at 26-13, and looked to add when Skinner forced a turnover at midcourt and found Benzan for an open three-pointer to kick off an 11-2 run. Long Island native-Nani Redford scored five points midway through the run for Harvard, hitting a three from the wing, then running out in transition for a layup to make it 28-21.
Skinner's corner three capped it off, pulling Harvard to within four at 28-24 with 3:38 to go in the second quarter. Harvard trailed 32-26 at the half.
The Crimson found themselves down by 10 early in the third quarter, but Boehm went to work inside, scoring six straight points for Harvard, including a jab-step baseline jumper to get Harvard to within four points at 38-34 with 5:14 to go in the quarter. The Red Storm closed the quarter on a 9-2 run to push the lead back to double-digits before Harvard's big fourth quarter run.
NOTES: Harvard made its fifth appearance in the WNIT over the past six seasons and the program's 13th postseason appearance overall…Harvard and St. John's have played four times, with the Red Storm owning a 3-1 advantage in the all-time series...All four games have been decided by seven points or less…With seven blocks, Harvard matched the single season team record (157, 1988-89) for blocks in a season.